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Council approves sewer rate hike

Rate hikes are rarely popular and Port Orchard Public Works Director Maher Abed’s plan to raise sewer rates an additional $18 per billing cycle within the city draw its share of critics to a public hearing on the matter.

Abed presented the proposal to the City Council on Monday night, asking for a $9 monthly rate increase within the city limits and a $13.50 monthly increase for surrounding areas served by the City of Port Orchard.

The rates for city residents would increase from $27 per month to $36 per month.

With the new proposed rate increase, the cost would be $36 per month or $72 per bi-monthly billing. The city charges a 50 percent surcharge to the bi-monthly billing of out-of-city ratepayers, including those living in McCormick Woods.

Since the new bi-monthly sewer bill for city ratepayers would be $72, the out-of-city customers would pay $108 every two months, effective July 1.

Abed is also proposing an increase to the sewer connection fees. The new fee is one flat General Facility Charge of $6,000 per ERU, in place of the three current fees that currently add up to roughly $4,000.

Several of the residents who spoke at the hearing were concerned with the rate hike’s effect on small businesses and questioned the overall fairness of the new system.

McCormick Woods resident Larry Westfall likened the 50 percent surcharge within McCormick Woods to “taxation without representation,” since McCormick Woods is not part of the city and does not have a representative on the council.

Councilman Bob Geiger offered a motion to accept the $9 increase, which Councilman Ron Rider seconded.

In discussion, Geiger made his position clear.

“It’s not taxation,” Geiger said. “It’s purchasing better effluent. It’s no different from the Puget Sound Power Co. or Standard Oil raising their prices.”

Abed said most of the money accumulated from the new rates will go toward offsetting the cost of the system and paying for the expansion of the Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility the city shares with Karcher Creek Sewer District.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the rate increase.

“It’s the cost of the modern world,” Geiger said.

Other council action:

• The council voted unanimously to approve an all-mail primary election sought by the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office in preparation for a statewide primary vote-by-mail election.

• The council voted unanimously to authorize Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel to sign Change Order No. 5 with Pease & Sons for the Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility.

• The council voted unanimously to establish a policy allowing the mayor and council to use city credit cards to transact official city business.

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